Myelin basic protein functions as a microtubule stabilizing protein in differentiated oligodendrocytes

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Myelin basic protein (MBP) is an oligodendrocyte-specific protein essential for oligodendrocyte morphogenesis at late stages of cell differentiation. There is evidence that the morphogenetic function of MBP is mediated by MBP interaction with the cytoskeleton. Thus, an MBP/cytoplasmic microtubule association has been reported, and MBP has Ca2+/calmodulin-regulated microtubule cold-stabilizing activity in vitro. However, the unambiguous demonstration of a microtubule-stabilizing activity for MBP in cells has been difficult because oligodendrocytes contain variants of STOP (stable tubule only polypeptide) proteins, which are responsible for microtubule cold stability in different cell types. Herein, we have used genetic mouse models and RNA interference to assay independently the microtubule cold-stabilizing activities of MBP and of STOP in developing oligodendrocytes. In wild-type oligodendrocytes, microtubules were cold stable throughout maturation, which is consistent with the presence of STOP proteins from early stages of differentiation. In contrast, in oligodendrocytes from STOP-deficient mice, microtubules were cold labile in the absence of MBP expression or when MBP expression was restricted to the cell body and became stable in fully differentiated oligodendrocytes, where MBP is expressed in cell extensions. The suppression of MBP by RNA interference in STOP-deficient oligodendrocytes suppressed microtubule cold stability. Additionally, STOP suppression in oligodendrocytes derived from shiverer mice that lack MBP led to the complete suppression of microtubule cold stability at all stages of cell differentiation. These results demonstrate that both STOP and MBP function as microtubule-stabilizing proteins in differentiating oligodendrocytes and could be important for the morphogenetic function of MBP. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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